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Friday, Sep 19, 2014
Autos

This car has a mind of its own

Published:

Dear Tom and Ray:

I have a 2001 Dodge Neon with more than 150,000 miles on it. Until very recently, itís been an extremely reliable vehicle, and Iíve loved it. Lately, and at random times, however, the engine will not shut off ó even with the key removed from the ignition and in my hand! Iíve already gotten a new key and replaced the entire ignition cylinder, but it happened again yesterday evening. Luckily, yesterday I was able to fiddle with the key a little bit and finally get the stupid thing to shut off. What could be causing this? At this point, the mechanics Iíve taken it to havenít been able to identify or fix the problem, and I canít find anything on the Internet. Each time itís happened, my local mechanic has disconnected the battery, which made the car turn off. After that, though, it runs perfectly for maybe a couple of months, until it happens again.

Any idea what could be wrong? ó Grace

TOM: Youíre a lucky woman, Grace ó you canít get your Neon to stop. Most of our customers with Neons canít get them to start!

RAY: You say you replaced the ignition cylinder. But thatís just the locking mechanism that the key fits into; itís not the ignition switch itself. So you easily could have a bad ignition switch.

TOM: But before you replace the switch, try replacing the ignition relay. Rather than have a huge amount of current running through the steering column to the ignition switch at your fingers, the ignition switch signals a power relay under the hood. Itís that relay that actually sends current to the engineís computer, which enables the engine to run. That relay could be faulty and sticking in the ďonĒ position.

RAY: The relay probably costs 20 bucks, and it takes two minutes to replace. So start there, and see if that fixes your problem.

TOM: If not, then itís almost certainly the ignition switch, because thereís really not much else that could cause this. But since replacing the ignition switch will cost you several hundred dollars, donít do that until youíve ruled out the $20 fix. Good luck, Grace.

You can listen to Tom and Ray Magliozziís ďCar TalkĒ program at 10 a.m. Saturdays on National Public Radio station WUSF, 89.7 FM.

Got a question about cars? E-mail Click and Clack by visiting the Car Talk website at www.cartalk.com. They canít answer your letter personally but will run the best letters in the column.

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